As you get older, your teeth do too. That statement seems obvious, but its implications mean that you can’t retire from caring for your teeth when you retire from working.
This blog post discusses the dental problems you may face after age 55, including how medical conditions affect your teeth and when to consider dentures. To maintain a good-looking smile well into your golden years, apply the tips below.
Common Dental Problems for Seniors
Be on the lookout for these oral health problems that are common in people aged 55 or older:
- Decreased sense of taste. Your taste buds become less perceptive of some flavors as you get older. Some medicines and health conditions also alter your sense of taste.
- Discolored teeth. You may notice your teeth getting darker over time. This color change occurs as teeth’s enamel becomes thinner and food and beverage stains become more visible.
- Dry mouth. Medications you take to treat health conditions may lead your mouth to produce less saliva. Dry mouth can increase your risk for tooth decay.
- Tooth and root decay. After 50, your teeth are still susceptible to cavities, particularly around your older fillings or around your teeth’s roots where the gumline has receded.
- Gum disease. This condition can affect any adult, including those who use dentures. Symptoms include red, swollen gums that may bleed when you floss.
- Tooth loss. Tooth loss becomes a strong possibility for people with advanced gum disease because gingivitis harms the structures that support your teeth.
Because these dental problems remain common in older individuals, it’s important to maintain a regular oral health regimen. (More on that later.)
Medical Conditions That Affect Your Teeth
Your risk for certain medical conditions increases as you age, and many of those conditions can affect your oral health as well. The health problems named below have the closest connections to your teeth and mouth:
- Cancer. Some cancer treatments may result in dry mouth. For example, radiation treatments aimed at the head or neck may decrease your saliva production. Other side effects of cancer treatments can include infection or inflammation in mouth tissues.
- Diabetes. Diabetes slows down your body’s natural healing process, so this condition impacts how quickly you can overcome gum disease. Poor oral health also increases your risk of developing diabetes.
- Heart disease. Your risk for heart disease also increases if you have poor oral health. If you already have heart disease, work with your dentist to keep gum disease under control.
- Osteoporosis. This disease occurs when bones become more brittle with age. Osteoporosis can affect your jawbones and lead to loose teeth or even tooth loss. Post-menopausal women have the highest risk of developing osteoporosis.
If you have any of these health conditions, be sure to discuss them with your dentist at regular check-ups. Also inform your dentist of medications you take, as they may affect your teeth and gums too.
Ways to Preserve Your Natural Teeth
Whether you have all your natural teeth or not, you should make daily efforts to clean your smile. Brush your teeth twice a day, and floss between all your teeth at least once a day. Use a fluoride toothpaste or a fluoride mouthwash because that element protects your teeth from decay.
Older individuals with arthritis may struggle to hold a toothbrush or floss because of decreased dexterity in their hands. These people can use electric toothbrushes, use toothbrushes with larger handles, or try dental flossers, which are easier to hold than spooled floss.
What else can you do to preserve your natural teeth? Try the following:
- Continue to visit your dentist twice a year.
- Avoid using tobacco products, as they can lead to tooth loss and more serious conditions like mouth cancer or heart disease.
- Eat a healthy diet low in sugar, and brush your teeth about 20 minutes after you snack on sugar-packed foods. Drink little to no soda because the acid in this liquid can damage your teeth.
These recommendations are similar to the guidelines for people of all ages, so if you’ve already developed diligent oral hygiene habits, you can continue to live with them as part of your routine.
When to Consider Dentures
If you take good care of your teeth, you may avoid the need for full dentures. That said, your dentist may recommend dentures if you several of the criteria below apply to you:
- You already have several missing teeth.
- You have advanced gum disease.
- You have bone loss due to osteoporosis, medication side effects, or other medical conditions.
- You’re having trouble chewing sticky or hard foods.
- You don’t like the appearance of your remaining teeth.
As you consider dentures, talk with your dentist. He or she can inform you of the pros and cons of this tooth replacement option.
If you want to enjoy a bright smile, use the tips above. Partner with your dentist to ensure that your natural teeth or dentures promote a healthy mouth and a healthy you throughout your golden years.